America’s problems – race relations, particularly when they involve law enforcement – have a single solution, black and white pastors alike said Thursday.
At a National Day of Prayer service at the AME Zion Church’s new transformation center and York County headquarters in Rock Hill, the preachers did not shy away from the problems of racial animus and how some police deal with blacks that continue to divide America.
Prayer services in cities and towns across the country all started at noon on the day designed to bring Americans of different faiths, races and cultures together.
In York County, people also came together to pray at Fort Mill Town Hall and at Rock Hill City Hall.
At the interfaith service, the gathering of a few dozen people heard prayers that were bold and loud, and meant to tell the truth – America is divided by race, and America is torn by how people of different races perceive they are treated by the police and the nation’s leaders.
No place was the coming-together more evident than in the front row, where Rock Hill Police Capt. Rod Stinson, one of the department’s top black officers, sat next to and prayed with Detective Kris Quate, who is white.
The two officers are united by the badge and the blue uniform, but also by a mutual goal – a safe and unified community.
“We are living in such a tense time” of racial tension, said the Rev. Maurice Revell, pastor at Rock Hill’s Agape International Ministries, that the civil rights dream of equality and harmony has been delayed. But it can be found again, he said, when races work to destroy the barriers that separate them.
Revell challenged pastors and congregations who meet on Sundays in what is often called the most segregated place in America – church – to bring down those artificial walls of racial difference that continue to divide black from white.
“There is no black, there is no white,” Revell said. “We are all one in Christ.”
The national spotlight on the deaths of blacks at the hands of police officers threatens to “destroy our great nation,” Revell said, but prayer can bring people together. With dignity for all, faith in the justice system and obeying the law, he said, all Americans can exist side by side.
“Let this prayer bring law enforcement officers and the boys in the ’hood together,” he said.
The Rev. Steve Hogg, pastor of Rock Hill’s First Baptist Church, thanked all those of all races who wear the badge and uniform who protect the rest of us.
“It is such a hard job,” he said. “They see so much pain and so much bad.”
Hogg spoke of racial problems across the country, but he said support for police and for people of all colors “can help heal this land of the wounds that fester in it.” All of us in Rock Hill and elsewhere can share peace and love and joy, he said, using patience and self-control to live together.
Prayers for schools, government leaders, communities and unity – all touched on the problems of race and inequality in the country.
Differences of faith, denomination, point of view – all are strengths, rather than weaknesses, in America, said Father Jim Moran, a Catholic priest from Rock Hill’s Oratory. The country, he said, through its exercise of faith and citizenship, passes along the civic duties of being American.
One of the final speakers, the Rev. Otha Smith of Chester, challenged all with these words:
“We cannot be content to be divided and separated. We have to change how we speak to each other, how we deal with each other.”
The National Day of Prayer service did not solve America’s race problems, or the problems some blacks and Hispanics have in dealing with some police officers.
But maybe it helped to start solving those problems, because these religious leaders of York and Chester counties, black and white, admitted that the problems must be solved together.
When the service was over, black cop Stinson and white cop Quate walked out together, as did everybody else.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org